UCLA researchers have developed a technique for genetically engineering human stem cells so they can combat and kill HIV cells in a living organism.
The advance, reported in the journal Public Library of Science Pathogens, demonstrates for the first time that engineering stem cells to form HIV-destroying immune cells can effectively suppress the virus in animals and may also work to target the AIDS virus in humans.
"We believe that this study lays the groundwork for the potential use of this type of an approach in combating HIV infection in infected individuals, in hopes of eradicating the virus from the body," said lead investigator Scott G. Kitchen, with the David Geffen School of Medicine at and a member of the University of California-Los Angles AIDS Institute.
In previous research, the UCLA scientists took immune system "killer" T cells from an HIV-infected individual and identified the molecule that allows them to recognize and kill virus-infected cells.
For the new study, they engineered human stem cells to form T cells that can attack HIV in tissues where the virus resides and replicates. In a series of tests on mice, the researchers found the engineered T cells increased, while levels of HIV in the blood decreased.
The researchers said they will now begin modifying T cells to target different parts of HIV, Kitchen said.
The study was funded, in part, by the National Institutes of Health.